As an executive leadership coach, I never cease to be impressed by the dedication and regard medical leaders have for the people on their teams. The vulnerability a leader shares when confronted with the realization that they can make or break their team, regardless of external factors, is very powerful. However, one of the most difficult concepts that a new leader, or even a seasoned leader in a new role, must grasp is that managers manage things and leaders lead people. This is often misinterpreted because people are messy.
Knowing your why of leadership is an important first step; however, effectively leading a team will require you to reflect more deeply. Self-awareness is an essential component of leading self. It is often one of the most difficult elements for leaders to tackle, as it demands an objective assessment of what you are contributing to a dysfunctional situation. You must turn the focus on yourself instead of looking for the answer in the “problems others are creating for you” or “the dysfunctions inherent in your team.”
In the fast-paced world of medical leadership where there seems to be a constant need to answer urgent concerns in rapid sequence or fast thinking, leaders must be deliberate about finding the space for slow thinking. First, leaders must acknowledge that fast thinking is emotional and prone to confirmation bias.8 It does not consider diverse opinions and may negate important information. Understanding that this can lead to uninformed decisions should alert leaders to the value of finding the time for reflection.9 It can even make you more productive.10 The way to approach this in a fast-paced world is to recognize when you do your best work and set aside 20–30 minutes several times a week to dedicate to slowing down the speed of your thoughts and becoming more intentional. Knowing the space that works best for you, whether while sitting or walking, and what the background is like will also be important. Finally, know what you want to think about. Many great questions will streamline your workflow and define your accountabilities to long-term outcomes.10 Coaching is a valuable space to consider some of these questions in more depth with a reflective partner.11